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Ettin complaint


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#1 KristoffStark

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 03:51 AM

 I'm not 100% percent sure that I agree with this, but I'm passing it on anyway.

I've been engaged in a campaign with a few of my friends, and one of them is convinced that the Ettin is unbalance, particularly the Master Ettin.

He references that it gets two grey defense dice, has Surge: +3 dmg, and in some Quests (like Encounter 2 of Castle Daerion) it can be reinforced.

He feels that these things, combined with its high health (higher even than the Shadow Dragon) makes it unbalanced in favor of the Overlord.



#2 hooliganj

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 07:13 AM

Individual monsters are not really 'balanced' one way or the other, except that stronger monsters come in smaller groups. The overlord has access to weak monsters as well as strong ones, and the quests determine what the OL player gets to use.

Still, the Ettins are the big bads in the intro quest, and my experience so far is that 4 heros have no trouble at all taking out both figures (including +8 health to the master from the quest rules) in 2-3 turns, tops.



#3 Atraangelis

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 03:15 PM

A Two Hero run through took down the ettin in two rounds.

Tough yes, Dangerous yes, unbalanced- nah..



#4 Antistone

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Posted 16 July 2012 - 04:45 PM

In my preview game, the heroes killed an entire group of cave spiders in one round.  I'm not sure yet what's typical, but a monster that consistently takes two rounds to kill might actually be overpowered, based on what I've seen so far.

I do have the impression that small groups of powerful monsters reinforce much more effectively than large groups of weak monsters (since all the reinforcement rules I saw limited you by the number of monsters you could bring back per turn, without regard for group size).  Does anyone see a reason that this wouldn't be as lop-sided as it looks?

And yes, if some groups of monsters are better than others, that IS a problem, because many quests have "open groups" where the overlord gets to pick what monsters he wants.



#5 hooliganj

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 03:00 AM

Antistone said:

 

In my preview game, the heroes killed an entire group of cave spiders in one round.  I'm not sure yet what's typical, but a monster that consistently takes two rounds to kill might actually be overpowered, based on what I've seen so far.

I do have the impression that small groups of powerful monsters reinforce much more effectively than large groups of weak monsters (since all the reinforcement rules I saw limited you by the number of monsters you could bring back per turn, without regard for group size).  Does anyone see a reason that this wouldn't be as lop-sided as it looks?

And yes, if some groups of monsters are better than others, that IS a problem, because many quests have "open groups" where the overlord gets to pick what monsters he wants.

 

 

If I understand your logic correctly, it would be more balanced if the Overlord did not have access to any monsters that are capable of even making an attack before being wiped out by the heroes?

Some monsters are just stronger. In exchange, there can never be more than 2 Ettins on the board, and even that's only if all 4 heroes are in play - otherwise the overlord only gets 1 figure. That seems a fair price to pay for that figure to have a little staying power.

From what I've seen, the open group choices are just another part of the overlord's strategy. For the best chance at winning, the OL needs to pick the monsters that work best to acheive his or her goals for that quest, and there are plenty of quests where a group containing 1 monster with move 3 simply will not work, no matter how much damage it can take or dish out.

This ties into the more fundamental change between 1st and 2nd edition Descent - the game has shifted from a tactical combat game to a goal-oriented strategy game. There are still plenty of opportunities to attack, but you have to pick your fights - combat that doesn't get you closer to the goal may just be a waste of time and resources.



#6 Antistone

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 05:49 AM

Note that a speed 3 large monster is actually just as fast as a speed 4 small monster (such as a cave spider), due to the weird "shrinking" movement rules.  In some cases, it's actually faster.

Perhaps one-rounding the cave spiders was a fluke.  Or perhaps they're chaff to slow us down.  Or perhaps they are underpowered.  Or maybe the overlord used them wrong, or our particular heroes were overpowered!  I don't have enough experience to tell.

But I'm afraid I can't quite see why "there are 2/5 as many of us" is a fair price to pay for "we each take 10 times as long to kill".  Can you explain that in more detail?



#7 Weltenreiter

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:04 AM

Antistone said:

And yes, if some groups of monsters are better than others, that IS a problem, because many quests have "open groups" where the overlord gets to pick what monsters he wants.

 

We have quests with "unopen" group(s) as well though (presumably all?), having groups of different power seems like a valuable tool for scenario design/differentiation. Imo there's room for and value in having both fodder you only take when you must, and units you pick when you can.



#8 KristoffStark

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 06:19 AM

Weltenreiter said:

Antistone said:

And yes, if some groups of monsters are better than others, that IS a problem, because many quests have "open groups" where the overlord gets to pick what monsters he wants.

 

We have quests with "unopen" group(s) as well though (presumably all?), having groups of different power seems like a valuable tool for scenario design/differentiation. Imo there's room for and value in having both fodder you only take when you must, and units you pick when you can.

Note: Not all.  Played one quest where the monsters list was "3 open groups"



#9 hooliganj

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 07:11 AM

Antistone said:

Note that a speed 3 large monster is actually just as fast as a speed 4 small monster (such as a cave spider), due to the weird "shrinking" movement rules.  In some cases, it's actually faster.

Perhaps one-rounding the cave spiders was a fluke.  Or perhaps they're chaff to slow us down.  Or perhaps they are underpowered.  Or maybe the overlord used them wrong, or our particular heroes were overpowered!  I don't have enough experience to tell.

But I'm afraid I can't quite see why "there are 2/5 as many of us" is a fair price to pay for "we each take 10 times as long to kill".  Can you explain that in more detail?

Having 2/5 as many figures would be a fair price for taking 2.5x as long to kill - in fact I'd say the heroes come out pretty well in that trade. But if you really want to compare, then do the actual math:

  • 1 group of Cave Spiders (4 minons and 1 master) has 17 total health, 5 grey defence dice and will require a minimum of 5 attacks to kill.
  • 1 group of Ettins (1 minion and 1 master) has 13 total health, 4 grey defence dice and will require a minimum of 2 hits to kill.

Those numbers are from memory, since I won't have my copy until Saturday. Still, upon direct comparison, the Ettins turn out to have quite a disadvantage, which is balanced by the fact that they are less likely to go down with the minimum number of attacks - their higher defense per figure means you will likely need 4-5 hits to kill them both - the same as the spiders. In the meantime, the overlord will only be able to take 4 actions with at most 2 attacks with the group, compared to the spider's 10 actions and 5 attacks. The Ettins hit a bit harder, but the spiders are ranged. The numbers seem pretty balanced to me.

And speaking of experience - I've seen the dwarf one-shot the white Ettin with the berserker starting gear, so in practice it may be unlikely that the heroes will need all 4-5 attacks to down the group. So my own experience says there isn't a problem here - if anything, even monsters as big as an Ettin or Shadow Dragon rarely provide more than a speed bump to the heroes. But again, 2nd edition isn't about killing the heroes, it's about using that speed bump to buy time to finish your objective.



#10 Antistone

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 09:55 AM

hooliganj said:

 

Having 2/5 as many figures would be a fair price for taking 2.5x as long to kill - in fact I'd say the heroes come out pretty well in that trade. But if you really want to compare, then do the actual math:

  • 1 group of Cave Spiders (4 minons and 1 master) has 17 total health, 5 grey defence dice and will require a minimum of 5 attacks to kill.
  • 1 group of Ettins (1 minion and 1 master) has 13 total health, 4 grey defence dice and will require a minimum of 2 hits to kill.

That's grossly misrepresentative.  Defense dice are applied separately to each attack - the spiders will roll 1 gray die against each attack, while the ettins will roll 2 gray dice against each attack. Multiplying the number of defense dice by the number of monsters does not produce a number that has any relevance to anything at all.

In my particular game, the party of heroes killed a full group of 5 cave spiders in 1 round, then spent 2 full rounds killing a master shadow dragon, which I am told has the same defense and less health than a master ettin (though it also has the "shadow" defensive ability, so who knows, maybe it's actually tougher overall).  That's where I'm getting the 10x number (2 rounds for 1 monster vs. 1 round for 5 monsters is a factor of 10 difference).  That may not be representative; I don't know.  But your comparison above is completely bogus.  The real math is FAR more complex.

Also, spiders are melee, not ranged.  Which I think means that ettins actually outrange them, due to Reach.



#11 hooliganj

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 01:40 PM

I was summarizing. I did acknowledge the effects of the extra defense die in the paragraph that followed, but I'm still certain that it would take fewer attacks, on average, to take out a full group of Ettins than a full group of Cave Spiders. If your heroes took 2 full rounds to take out a single figure (a potential of 16 attacks), then they've hit a statistical anomaly.

The grey defense die has 0-1-1-1-2-3 shields on each side, for an average of 1.33 defense per roll. Rolling 2 grey dice gives an average of 2.67 shields per roll (both as a double of the single roll and as the average of the 36 possible outcomes). So the 2nd defense die reduces the incoming damage from attacks by a little more than 1 damage per attack. Given that heroes generally seem to roll 3-6 damage before adding skills and modifiers, I would say the extra die makes the monster just a little tougher to beat - not a game breaker.

As I said before, I've seen the white Ettin go down in 1 hit, and the red one takes 2-3. I've also seen the master Cave Spider take 3 hits to kill, but sometimes the dice just roll that way. I suspect your group had some tough rolls against a master Ettin that gave him a much stronger impression than he really deserves.



#12 Antistone

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 02:23 PM

OK, I'm getting tired of this hand-waving, so I made some quick modifications to my old endurance calculator so that it could handle some simple examples from 2e.

I used the following stats, from memory:

  • Chipped Greataxe (Berserker starting weapon): blue+red dice, S: +1 damage, S: +1 damae
  • Reaper's Scythe (Necromancer starting weaon): blue+yellow dice, S: +1 range
  • Cave Spider (minion): 3 health, 1 gray defense die
  • Cave Spider (master): 5 health, 1 gray defense die
  • Shadow Dragon (master): 9 health, 2 gray defense dice, "Shadow" (in 1e terms, this is Fear 1, but only against adjacent attackers)

Those weapons were chosen because they didn't require me to rewrite my macros to limit surge abilities to once-per-attack (the greataxe can't roll more than 2 surges, and the scythe's surge ability is irrelevant because I assumed close-range attacks) - also, they're the strongest and weakest weapons I remember the stats for.  I used this preview article to determine what the dice can roll.  And just to be clear, all of these stats include the chance of missing due to rolling an X on the blue die, and do not include bonuses from skills.

Based on those stats, here's the average number of attacks the Berserker needs to kill things:

  • Cave Spider (minion): 1.4 attacks (~2/3 chance to one-shot)
  • Cave Spider (master): 2.1 attacks
  • Entire group of cave spiders (4 minions + 1 master): 7.6 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master): 9.5 attacks

And the Necromancer, assuming he stay close enough that there's no missing due to range, needs an average of:

  • Cave Spider (minion): 2.2 attacks (~1/4 chance to one-shot)
  • Cave Spider (master): 3.5 attacks
  • Entire group of cave spiders (4 minions + 1 master): 12.5 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master), from 2 spaces away: 9.2 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master), from 1 space away: 13.9 attacks

Based on these numbers, killing a master shadow dragon in one round would be unusual, and a melee-heavy party can probably expect that it will take longer than an entire group of cave spiders.  Remember that I'm using the group size for 4 heroes, which means the dragon group will also contain a minion, in addition to that one master - that's not represented here, because I don't remember its stats.

I don't know the stats for ettins.  If anyone's got them, I can run those numbers, too.



#13 hooliganj

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 04:14 PM

  • Ettin minion: 5 health, 2 grey defense dice
  • Ettin master: 8 health, 2 grey defense dice

No defensive abilities to consider. They can take an action to throw a hero out of melee range, but it's only 3 squares, so the hero can easily spend fatigue to return and still get 2 attacks.

 



#14 Antistone

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Posted 17 July 2012 - 04:42 PM

Berserker:

  • Ettin (minion): 2.5 attacks
  • Ettin (master): 3.7 attacks

Necromancer:

  • Ettin (minion): 5.3 attacks
  • Ettin (master): 8.2 attacks

 



#15 hooliganj

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 03:42 AM

Speaking of hand-waving, you're short-changing the Necromancer quite a bit by ignoring what is basically the main purpose of the class - the combat pet. The Necro's pet gives the player an additional 2 actions every turn, and attacks with Blue+Red, doing more damage than the actual weapon.

Basically, your numbers don't match what I've seen in play. A group of 4 heroes downed a Lieutenant (with 15 health and Grey+Black defense dice) in 1 round by concentrating their fire, and it didn't even take all of their attacks. So I'm sorry, but I just don't see the overlord overwhelming the heroes with his awesome minions.



#16 jjcole

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 05:43 AM

hooliganj said:

Speaking of hand-waving, you're short-changing the Necromancer quite a bit by ignoring what is basically the main purpose of the class - the combat pet. The Necro's pet gives the player an additional 2 actions every turn, and attacks with Blue+Red, doing more damage than the actual weapon.

FYI the Reanimate can only attack once. Unless there's a skill that changes that later, I'm not familiar with the Necromancer skills.



#17 Antistone

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 05:45 AM

As I said, I chose those weapons because my script was written for 1e and isn't limited in the number of times it will use a surge ability.  That means that if I had run the reanimate's attack, it would have come out exactly the same as the berserker's (since the only difference is that the reanimate can only spend a maximum of 1 surge).

There's not that much variability in the starting weapons.  The stats I calculated for the necromancer's attack are also basically the same as the disciple's iron mace, and only missing the surge damage from the spiritspeaker's oak staff or the wildlander's yew shortbow.  I think the two attacks I chose are reasonably representative of the range of options.

Maybe you saw the heroes get way luckier than this a few times - that doesn't make the numbers wrong, it just means that there's luck involved (there's also a long list of psychological reasons your impression may not be representative of even your own overall experience - in particular, people tend to remember the exceptional events and gloss over the ordinary ones).  I only calculated the average, perfect rolls would of course be far better (and with perfect rolls for the overlord it would take infinity attacks!).

I'm not modeling the entire game, but I'm modeling a decent chunk of it precisely.  I absolutely refuse to entertain counter-arguments based solely on anecdotes.

 

Though, seeing such a big difference between the ettins and the shadow dragons, I am suddenly wondering if our overlord could have used the act 2 card by mistake.  Can anyone confirm those stats?



#18 Ratcur

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:50 AM

The ancetodal evidence is pretty reasonable given the math.  The math says on average anywhere from 3.7 to 8.2 attacks to kill a master ettin depending on the strength of the attacks.  A group of 4 heroes has at least 8 actions so assuming they are focusing on nothing but attacking the master ettin killing it in 1 round is hardly surprising.  Throw in the use of skills to spike the ettin down and it would be more surprising if the ettin didn't die.  The OL's job of course is to make sure he doesn't end up in the circumstance where all 4 heroes can spend all their actions beating on his master ettin.  Might be trickier then it sounds with the use of fatigue moves but that's a different issue.

Side question for modeling the barbarian's attack.  Did it include the Rage starting ability?  I calculated a 12.3% chance for a barbarian to kill na ettin in 1 swing and 60.2% chance to kill it in two or less swings which seemed a little higher then what you were getting with Rage being the most likely difference. 

 



#19 Antistone

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 08:11 AM

I agree that one-rounding an ettin looks completely plausible based on these numbers.  I was more referring to the anecdote about one-rounding a lieutenant with 15 wounds and black+grey defense, and hooliganj's vague claim that "basically, your numbers don't match what I've seen in play".

As I think I mentioned, I did not include any hero skills.  Partly because assuming that the berserker will use Rage on *every* attack seems rather disingenuous, and partly because I thought it would probably be more representative of hero attacks as a whole if I did not include it, since most classes do not have starting skills that add damage to their attacks.



#20 Antistone

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 06:40 PM

Eh-hrm…seems I made a mistake entering the information for the gray defense dice.  All of those monsters are actually harder to kill than I listed.  Here's the updated stats, assuming there are no other mistakes:

Chipped Greataxe:

  • Cave Spider (minion): 1.7 attacks
  • Cave Spider (master): 2.5 attacks
  • Cave Spider (4-hero group): 9.3 attacks
  • Ettin (minion): 4.0 attacks
  • Ettin (master): 6.0 attacks
  • Ettin (4-hero group): 9.9 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master): 15.4 attacks
  • Lieutenant with 15 health and black+grey defense: 15.5 attacks

Reaper's Scythe:

  • Cave Spider (minion): 2.9 attacks
  • Cave Spider (master): 4.5 attacks
  • Cave Spider (4-hero group): 16.0 attacks
  • Ettin (minion): 9.8 attacks
  • Ettin (master): 15.1 attacks
  • Ettin (4-hero group): 24.9 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master, from 2 spaces): 16.9 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master, from 1 space): 25.9 attacks
  • Lieutenant with 15 health and black+grey defense: 49.2 attacks

And just for grins, here's the Berserker using Rage on every attack:

  • Cave Spider (minion): 1.4 attacks
  • Cave Spider (master): 2.0 attacks
  • Cave Spider (4-hero group): 7.6 attacks
  • Ettin (minion): 2.8 attacks (12% chance to one-shot)
  • Ettin (master): 4.1 attacks
  • Ettin (4-hero group): 7.0 attacks
  • Shadow Dragon (master): 10.2 attacks (64% chance to cause no harm at all)
  • Lieutenant with 15 health and black+grey defense: 9.8 attacks

 






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